Squirrels in the Workplace

When we moved to our new home I quickly realized it was infested with squirrels. These seemingly cute little creatures scamper across our deck all day long, they forage through the tomatoes as if we planted the crop just for them, and their antics taught me a lot about being a rep.

First and foremost, squirrels exhibit a true joy of life. Their liveliness makes even the most avid squirrel hater (me) laugh out loud sometimes. That same joie de vivre takes a blah rep into a level where stores look forward to your coming and bend over backwards in working with you. Be that refreshing spirit of joy as you tackle your work and be amazed at not just how much you enjoy it, but how much others enjoy you!

Secondly, squirrels do work with a vengeance. Contrary to a children’s book about lazy Tommy Squirrel who only likes to play, they seldom stop searching for and picking up food. Their industry is noted throughout our history. The first documented reference to squirrels dotting our neighborhoods was made in Philadelphia’s Franklin Square in 1847. Early urban dwellers encouraged these indigenous rodents by feeding them, enticing them from forest settings. (That may have been a mistake.)

Their work ethic quickly became a moral for us all. Ken Blanchard, in Gung Ho! made an excellent point: They work because if they don’t have enough food to get through the winter, they will die. They infuse all their work into one worthwhile goal, and as a species, they have thrived for centuries. Be committed to the task at hand when you have an assignment and be amazed at not just how productive you are, but how your work gets noticed! Just be cognizant of local PPE requirements and be safe!

Squirrels earned a bad rap when we saw how easily they changed course and got distracted, seemingly without any real cause. Their scampering often looks less like the direct paths of ants and more like the wanderings of a drunken sot unable to walk a straight line. I had no defense for them. Here’s the thing I learned though: They have no hippocampus, and thus no long-term memory. They must remember where they stored nuts, and it’s like they are just a day late and a dollar short when it comes to having the equipment for doing so. How do they do it?

Neuroscience researcher Pierre Lavenex reported in a UC Berkeley study that squirrels take note of their relative position to trees and buildings. They triangulate the angles and distances between these landmarks to find hidden caches of food. That explains a lot, doesn’t it? They are running around to establish degrees of angles, tangent lines and they calculate geometric equations effortlessly, while I floundered in high school geometry. Who’s the dummy now? (That would be me) What is the third lesson I extrapolated from this? Be a person who learns from the nuances of your environment. What is the store culture? How do shoppers respond to displays? What can you do to make your brand more appealing?

Just like the squirrel, many an independent worker is underappreciated by cubicle devotees. They project the attitude of, “How can you earn a living enjoying your independence while I must slave in a cubbyhole?” Do’t let the other animals in your pack affect you. Embrace the joy of being you and be the best you possible.

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